Most guys with nice trucks know all about “dumpin’ money” into their rides, but when you drive a dump truck you are literally “dumpin’ money” every day. Such is the case for Miro Dragich of Quality Material Transport out of Norwalk, CA who owns and operates the super-clean transfer unit featured on our cover this month. With a long history of building and showing street rods, Miro is right at home these days in his hot rod Peterbilt.
Born in Romania to a family of Serbian descent, Miro (53) and his family immigrated to the United States in 1973, three days before Miro’s 9th birthday, when his grandfather, who had been here for 30 years, sponsored them. Arriving in Los Angeles, Miro would eventually move to Hawthorne, Anaheim and a few other cities around southern California, before finally ending up in Norwalk, where he lives today.
After high school, Miro joined the workforce when he took a job at a local tire shop. Back in those days, Miro and his buddies loved to build hot rods and show them off at the local pizza joint every weekend. Over the years, he built and/or owned several Camaros, including a 1976, 1978 and 1982, a Datsun (Nissan) 280ZX, a 1965 Chevelle a 1988 S10 Blazer (which he still owns) and more. After the tire shop job, Miro took a string of miscellaneous jobs before landing a good gig at Apex Bulk as a mechanic. Later, after getting his CDL, he became a part-time relief driver at Apex, as well. While still working at Apex, Miro got married and the two had their first child, a daughter named Stephanie.
Leaving Apex a few years later, Miro began running a tow truck for Kenny’s Auto Service out of Bellflower, where he stayed for about five years. After leaving Kenny’s Auto Service, Miro started driving for C. Oliver & Sons, pulling a powder train for Paramount Ready Mix and Artesia Ready Mix all over California. In 1994, Miro and his wife had their second child, a son named Miro, Jr. (AKA Junior). A year later, Miro took a driving job for Lucky Supermarkets, delivering products to stores in Nevada, Arizona and California. After about five years of that, in 2000 he bought his own truck and formed Quality Material Transport.
That first truck was an almost-new 2000 Peterbilt 379 short-hood transfer that had been wrecked and repossessed. Taking the truck to Henry at the Peterbilt dealer in Pico Rivera, they fixed the damage, repainted the rig and did some customizing. This truck looked very similar to Miro’s current transfer, besides the short hood and a few other details. Painted Antique White and Copper Metallic Brown like his current ride, this truck featured single round headlights on Double JJ brackets, fiberglass front fenders, stainless rear fenders and plenty of lights.
Around 2005, Miro decided it was time to upgrade his transfer and bought a used 2003 Peterbilt 379 from Giltner Inc. out of Jerome, ID. The rig, which had been pulling a milk tanker, had a 285” wheelbase and a sleeper. Picking the truck up in Idaho, Miro took it directly to Keith Hill at Rogue Truck Body in Oregon, where it was completely redone and converted into a transfer unit. Minus the trailer, which was built later, most of what you see today on the truck was done back then during the initial build.
Powered by a 6NZ Cat C-15 hooked to a 13-speed transmission with double overdrive and 3.55 rears, the first order of business was to remove the sleeper and shorten the frame to 236 inches to accommodate the 15’ dump box. It was a good truck, for sure, but Miro wanted to change just about everything – most of the body panels were replaced or re-skinned to fix dents, remove emblems and get rid of the peeper window in the passenger-side door. He also did not like the truck’s visor (he replaced it with one from Aranda), its front fenders (he replaced them with fiberglass fenders from WTI), the wind-wings (he converted the cab to one-piece windows with no wind-wings), the steps (he replaced with smooth boxes from Aranda) or the fuel tanks (which he had painted).
After painting the rig Antique White and Copper Metallic Brown like his first transfer, Rogue continued with the customization process by fabricating matching custom stainless rear fender brackets and light bars, for the entire truck and trailer, and then installed painted fiberglass fenders from Bad Ass Customs. They also replaced the headlights with 359-style double rounds on painted Double JJ brackets, added extra grille bars, a square Valley Chrome bumper, newer-style mirrors, five cab lights (all of the lights on the truck and trailer are groups of five to match), painted cab extensions and window chops from Aranda, and a complete 7” exhaust from Dynaflex. In addition to adding five tanker-style lights in front of the air cleaners, the straps on the breathers were deleted and the screens were chopped for that “hot rod” look.
The cab of the truck, which was completely insulated with HushMat before anything else was done, features custom brown suede on the ceiling, door panels, walls and passenger seat, done by Eddy and Virginia at Eddy & Sons Upholstery in Bellflower, CA. And, speaking of the passenger seat, it is the larger half of a 60/40 split bench seat taken out of an older Chevy pickup. The driver’s seat is a black leather seat (for comfort), and the entire dash features Rockwood products, including African Rosewood dash panels and armrests. The interior also features a chrome steering column, a wood steering wheel and custom pedals, including a genuine clutch pedal off a Harley. Miro also had Eddy’s move the stereo from the upper console to the dash, and had 13 speakers, including a 12-inch sub-woofer, hidden throughout the cab (you can’t see any of them).
Moving under the hood, the truck’s Cat C-15 has been “tuned” and turned-up to its “maximum capabilities” by his friend Darrin at Precision Diesel in Santa Fe Springs, CA. The engine also has tons of braided stainless-steel lines from XRP, Inc. in Southgate, CA, and plenty of chrome air tubes. Moving under the truck, thanks go out to Mike Fletcher at Fletcher’s Diesel Repair in Lancaster, CA for installing a complete air-ride system on the rig’s front end, allowing Miro to drop it or raise it instantly with just the push of a button from the cab.
Originally, the transfer’s custom Rogue trailer had a spring suspension, but a few years after building the unit for Miro, Rogue built him a new air-ride trailer (one of the first they ever made) to pull behind it. This trailer, like the last one, was built, equipped and painted to match the truck. With an articulating draw bar and a 14’ box, this is a full-blown custom trailer, complete with extra tanker-style lights, fenders from Bad Ass Customs and recently hand-made mud flaps. It also has custom reflective gold-leaf pinstriping, outlined with blue, to match the colors on Miro’s company logo, on both the truck and trailer, done by Tom Brooks at Stripes N Stuff in Long Beach, CA. These pinstripes really glow at night!
Shortly after building the new transfer, Miro got the opportunity to buy another truck – a yellow 2001 Peterbilt 379 extended hood with metallic silver fenders. This truck pulls a 2006 Dragon 32’ end dump, along with various other types of trailers his customers hire him to pull, including flatbeds, race trailers and merchandise trailers. This truck is powered by a 6NZ Cat C-15, as well, and today features silver metallic flames (painted by Kelly & Son Custom Paint in Bellflower, CA) and Peterbilt 389 headlights.
Things were going good until the recession hit and Miro went through a nasty divorce. This second truck really came in handy when the building industry collapsed, and Miro was forced to park the transfer for a while. Thankfully, at that point, he also got the opportunity to pull a show and merchandising trailer for his friend Wendell Smith who owned Rampage Wheels – a company that made billet wheels, custom tires and other unique parts for motorcycles.
Pulling the Rampage trailer to shows and events across the country for several years with his yellow Peterbilt, along with some race trailers and a merchandise trailer for Chip Foose each year to the SEMA show, Miro was able to get through the worst of the recession and survive. Unfortunately, in 2012 Wendell Smith had a heart attack and died, so the Rampage gig went away. By then, the building industry was coming back to life and Miro was able to get back into his transfer on a more regular basis.
These days, Miro’s operation includes both of his trucks, which keeps him very busy. He wanted to thank his #1 subhauler, Rich Newton, who has been helping him out for over 15 years, as well as all the other owner-operators that help him to succeed day in and day out. He also wanted to thank Bob Hitchcock (RIP) of Cherokee Truck Parts for being his truck show mentor and good friend, along with Keith, Cody and Greg at Rogue for all their help and support (they now have two locations – the one in Oregon and another in Lake Elsinore, CA). Special thanks to Denise, Cory and Sal at Dynaflex, Kevin at Grand General, and Vic Caliva for keeping his rides looking top-notch since the very beginning.
Running around south Corona for our photo shoot, we would like to thank Miro’s son Junior for helping to keep the truck clean (and for lunch), along with everyone at the Foster Sand & Gravel Plant and Gerry Deleo and his crew at Corona Clay for allowing us to “take over” their facilities for a few hours. Gerry and one of his old B73 Macks were featured twice on our cover way back in May and August of 1994, so it was good to see that he is still alive and kicking out there. We also headed south to Rogue in Lake Elsinore for a few pictures there, too.
When he’s not truckin’ or working on his trucks, Miro likes to go boating, BBQ and party with his friends. Attending several shows each year in California, Utah, Arizona and Nevada, Miro has racked-up a stable of trophies and awards, but the most important prize he earns every day is the fact that he gets to run such awesome equipment that not only looks good, but earns its keep. “Dumpin’ money” may sound like a bad thing to some, but to Miro Dragich and his clean transfer dump truck, its music to his ears and money in the bank!